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Welcome Mittel Europa

Romanian and Bulgarian Cuisine in Paris

Romania and Bulgaria flagsPeople here are intrigued, with mixed feelings though, by the recent introduction of two new European Union members: Bulgaria and Romania. Foodies wonder about the potential contribution of these two Mittel Europa states to modern or not-so-modern European gastronomy. Scholars remind us that with King Burebis (born in 77 B.C.), the Romanians (then named Dacians) were the true inventors of prohibition—alcohol was totally banned from the kingdom of Dacia. Food writer Jean-Claude Ribaut contends that the word “barbecue” could very well find its source in the Romanian word berbec, which means lamb. We are also reminded that French King François I discovered in 1452 the virtues of yogurt thanks to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (then ruling Bulgaria) who dispatched an ambassador to France carrying a batch of the cultured milk as a gift.

Romanian cuisine differs from that of its southern neighbour, Bulgaria. Both are rather rustic, but analysts find that Bulgarian fare pays more attention to acidic notes. Check for yourself, though, and discover these exotic cuisines.

La Thrace is a quaint place serving carefully prepared Bulgarian cuisine. Starters include a Tarator soupa, composed of fresh cucumber, yogurt with a hint of garlic and anise. There is also a roasted eggplant caviar called kiopolou and a luteniza, grilled bell peppers in a tomato- garlic coulis. Iatsa po panagurski is a poached egg on a bed of garlicky yogurt with sweet paprika.

"Plats de résistance" consist of minced pork baked in the oven with carrots, gherkins and herbs, or an agnechko s praz, which is lamb meat simmered with leeks and onions. The kiselo zele is a marmite of sour cabbage stuffed with pork meat, raisins and a bouquet of spices. For desserts, choices include the predictable baklava and a strudel of apples, walnuts, cinnamon. (La Thrace, 11, rue de Bagnolet, 75020, Paris. 01 44 93 74 70. Lunch & Dinner daily. Prix fixe €15, €19, à la carte €30. Rating: 12/20)

Restaurant Doina
Restaurant Doïna

For a taste of Romania, the relaxed chef at Restaurant Doïna delivers in a bric-à-brac setting, creating a rustic cuisine generally faithful to its origins. The Tuslama, a veal tripe soup, is a bit lightened from the original recipe that calls for it to be thicker. The Mamaliga is a compact and hearty polenta suited for cold winter nights. More appealing is the Pastrama, young ram meat that has been cured, salted, spiced and smoked.

The Sarmale is composed of a mixture of rice, onions, minced pork meat and lard wrapped in a cabbage leaf. The dish is abundantly spiced with paprika, anise and sage. Mititei are small roasted skinless sausages filled with pork, lamb and, yes, horse meat. (Restaurant Doïna, 149, rue Saint Dominique, 75007 Paris. 01 45 50 49 57. Lunch & Dinner daily. Rating: 11/20)

Additional Romanian Restaurants

50, bd de Picpus
75012 Paris
01 43 45 18 43
Open Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sun.
Prix fixe: €10, €12.60, €18

4, rue Crozatier
75012 Paris
01 43 44 49 15
Open Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sun.

Chez Christina
3, rue du Nil
75002 Paris
01 40 39 90 02
Open Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner Mon.-Sat.

(Updated: 09/10/10 NW)

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